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Australian daily explores legacy of Agent Orange

Update: August, 30/2006 - 00:00

Australian daily explores legacy of Agent Orange


SYDNEY — Viet Nam’s Agent Orange/dioxin victims have not yet been compensated for the extensive damages they’ve suffered, but the Vietnamese Government would like to change that.

Australia’s leading daily newspaper, The Age, in its August 26 edition ran an article by Connie Levett on the effect of Agent Orange/dioxin in Viet Nam and the Vietnamese Government’s efforts to seek compensation for the damages.

The article stated, "In Viet Nam, it’s impossible to ignore Agent Orange; its casualties are everywhere. An estimated four million Vietnamese were exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical mixture of two synthetic herbicides, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. Between 1961 and 1971 the US sprayed 80 million litres of herbicides over southern Viet Nam."

According to the article, the US government has found ways to tend to its own Agent Orange damages without admitting guilt, but the Vietnamese remain uncompensated.

In the years since the war, veterans from the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have obtained compensation in out-of-court settlements. Yet nothing has been given to the people most exposed and whose lives continue to be affected by the toxin, the article stated.

Levett quoted Kenneth Herman, an academic and former veteran who runs a programme in Viet Nam’s central Da Nang City for children disabled by Agent Orange.

"The problem with Agent Orange is severe and ongoing. The research shows mutations through several generations. The reality is that science doesn’t know how long it will go on," Herman said.

According to Herman, The US Veterans Administration has just approved disability payments for the US Navy’s "brown water" veterans – those who worked on the rivers through areas that had been sprayed.

"They will pay for disorders suffered by [the American veterans] or their children – non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, type 2 diabetes, children born with spina bifida or who develop leukaemia," Herman said. "So while we are able to do that for our own veterans, they are not willing to do it for the Vietnamese people who have lived with [Agent Orange] for 30 or 40 years."

Levett’s article stated that the Vietnamese Government wanted to change that. Last March, the Government lost a lawsuit against 37 chemical companies that provided the US government with Agent Orange. The US Department of Justice was not party to the suit but filed a brief in support of the chemical companies.

The Vietnamese Government has launched an appeal, expected to go before the US Court of Appeal in November, with new research on genetic deformity and 26 new plaintiffs in addition to the original three.

Levett quotes Professor Nguyen Trong Nhan, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin, as saying that the key evidence in the appeal will be new research from Military Medical Institute studies on 50,000 people. — VNS

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